Do you need to get your wisdom teeth pulled for orthodontic treatment? This topic has been one of controversy among dentists and orthodontists. Before discussing it, I’d like to first talk about some of the reasons why it may be beneficial to have them removed that aren’t related to the alignment of your teeth.
A wisdom tooth, also called a 3rd molar, that’s partially erupted or that’s fully impacted at an angle may affect the health of the 2nd molars in your mouth. Partial eruptions and eruptions at an improper angle typically happen because a) there’s insufficient space in the jaw for the wisdom tooth b) the developing wisdom tooth is formed at an angle c) the wisdom tooth is stuck under the molar in front of it. In many cases, these situations can cause a deep gum pocket behind the second molar or around the wisdom tooth which traps harmful bacteria that lead to gum disease, bone loss, or tooth decay. If the gum around the wisdom tooth is swollen, painful, or puffy, bring this to the attention of your general dentist or orthodontist.
In rare instances, different types of cysts can develop around an impacted wisdom tooth. (A cyst is a fluid-filled cavity.) Depending on the cellular makeup of the cyst, it could be not harmful or it could lead to further bone destruction. A sample of the cells is usually needed to make a definitive diagnosis IF you do have a cyst around a wisdom tooth. In which case, the tooth is usually removed and the cells sampled at the same time.
All that being said, there are risks to removing wisdom teeth, so it shouldn’t be assumed that it needs to be done before any issues develop. Could dental crowding be one of these issues? Some dental literature suggests the wisdom teeth could contribute to crowding. However, other research has shown that crowding develops around the time wisdom teeth come in (age 18-22) whether or not the wisdom teeth are present. Ultimately, crowding is caused by multiple factors and research doesn’t show conclusively that the presence of wisdom teeth is one of them!